Trenton Moves Forward with Annual Budget Plan | New
TRENTON – She calls BS
Skeptical-born councilor Robin Vaughn was the only lawmaker opposed to the city starting the process of transitioning from a fiscal year budget cycle to a calendar year.
The ordinance advanced Thursday by a 5: 1 vote for a second reading and a public hearing at the June 10 meeting.
During his civic comments, Vaughn made his objections to the proposal known – despite assurances from state officials that the move to an annual budget puts the city on a better financial footing and could result in a multi-million surplus. of dollars.
Vaughn alleged that the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees city staff and financial decisions through a memorandum of understanding, was also trying to “hijack” the municipal government from Trenton.
“We have no independence from the state,” said Vaughn, who early in his term sponsored a non-binding resolution to scrap the MoU. “I will not support this at all. … Keep the state out of Trenton.
Mayor Reed Gusciora said in an interview on Friday that he supported the “labor intensive” shift to an annual budget cycle.
That’s part of the reason he called on finance guru Arch Liston to take on the chief of staff position, as Liston has helped other municipalities accomplish this feat.
Trenton is one of seven municipalities in the state that still operate on an annual budget schedule, officials said.
It would join other municipalities like Patterson in transitioning to the calendar year format.
Gusciora estimated that the move could cause Trenton to have up to $ 30 million in excess reserves in the years to come.
“It’s not the state takeover or any other grassy hill theory,” he said.
The move forces Trenton to prepare two budgets over an 18-month period, covering July through December of this year, and another 12-month spending plan running from January through December 31, 2022.
DCA’s Michele Meade described the benefits of the move during a board presentation earlier in the week.
She said residents more easily understand calendar year budgets than the current fiscal year setup, which runs from July to June.
The financial implications could be huge, with the capital receiving around $ 138 million in state aid over an 18-month period, Meade said.
The first tranche of state aid would hit in November, Gusciora said, followed by an additional $ 69 million in November 2022.
During the same period, officials said, the city is only owed a single $ 25 million pension payment, allowing it to create a rainy day fund that could prepare the city. to future success.
Trenton also receives nearly $ 73 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The council voted to accept the first $ 36.5 million from the federal government to cover unforeseen expenses incurred throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gusciora, who is expected to run for a second term as mayor, said he was optimistic that the funds and the calendar year change could provide future tax relief for Trentonians over the next three years.
Officials purged $ 7 million from Trenton Water Works surplus to fill a budget hole that allowed the city to pass a lump-sum tax budget this year.
Vaughn remained skeptical of the optimistic forecasts of city and state leaders, fearing that residents could face steep tax hikes in the future.
Meade said moving to a calendar year cycle doesn’t mean Trenton’s taxes will automatically increase, as rates depend on the revenue the city generates in future years.
In other news, Gusciora said he plans to introduce Acting General Counsel Wes Bridges for advice and consent at the next board meeting,
Gusciora credited Bridges for handling with aplomb the difficult task of providing legal advice to an organization that distrusted the town’s legal department.
“It’s hard to find someone of Wes’ caliber who would work for $ 130,000 and hold a law degree,” Gusciora said.
Bridges, who operates his own business in Trenton, was asked at the end of last year to replace the laid-off John Morelli.
The Council had a strained relationship with Morelli and fired him for cause, accusing him of repeatedly failing to provide lawmakers with proper legal advice.
Morelli’s dismissal came shortly after Gusciora sacked board-appointed lawyer Edward Kologi.
The legislature subsequently introduced a measure that effectively created separate lawyers for the board of directors and the administration.
The council overturned Gusciora’s veto over the Special Counsel Law, which ended up before a judge who upheld the order.